Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lost in translations

(I won't comment on how long it's been. Nor the paradox of the previous sentence.)

I often feel the urge to construct a UK English - US English colloquial dictionary. I know there are loads of dictionaries out there, but I don't think many of them contain the following:

UK English - US English
  1. Heath Robinson - Rube Goldberg
  2. Daddy long legs, Crane fly - Mosquito hawk
  3. Scampi - small tailless fried shrimp
  4. Kung-pao chicken - Chinese-style dish with onions, peppers, in a sweet and sour sauce
  5. Italian wedding soup - tomato based soup with some pasta, vegetables, and small meatballs
  6. Corn - grain
US English - UK English
  1. Rube Goldberg - Heath Robinson
  2. Daddy long legs - unknown spider
  3. Scampi - prawns pan fried in garlic butter
  4. Kung-pao chicken - Chinese-style dish with peanuts and dried chilli peppers in a soy flavoured sauce
  5. Italian wedding soup - chicken based stock with green vegetables and meatballs and/or sausage, sometimes with pasta
  6. Corn - maize, sweetcorn
UK English - US English
  1. To hand - at hand, handy
  2. Cater for - cater to
  3. Different to - different from
  4. By contrast - in contrast
You get the idea. To paraphrase Steve Martin, it's like these English have a different word for everything!

Of course, it's not as bad as all that. But after being here for awhile (over 6 years now), I'm starting to forget what Americans say in certain cases. Sometimes I'll ask Richard "Do the Americans say ... " and sometimes he won't remember either. One of my American friends says it annoys her when she can't remember what people in the US would say. I find it difficult to talk to her, in a way, because I'm not sure which phraseology to use, and it slows me down.

There are things I still either won't say or have trouble saying:
  • quid - slang for a pound, similar to saying buck for a dollar, it just sounds so contrived in an American accent
  • petrol - gasoline, I still prefer to say gas, I think due to the very English way this word is pronounced, PET-troll
  • dosh - slang for money, possibly meaning ready cash, admittedly I don't hear it much
  • mate - my Scandinavian friend uses it all the time, maybe because she used to live in London
  • idnit - isn't it, used at the end of a phrase in place of many phrases like doesn't it, isn't that right, don't you think, don't they, etc. I don't use it because it's ungrammatical slang.
Occasionally I use the English pronunciation of words, like tomato, because if I'm discussing tomatoes with an English person, it feels very weird to keep hearing tuh-MAH-toe and yet saying tuh-MADE-oh. Other times I lean towards the English pronunciation just to be understood. I forget that I have an accent, and then I'll get this deer-in-headlights look and realize that the other person probably has no idea what I said.

And actually, it's not just foreigners' accents that people here find hard to understand. We'll be home watching television and there'll be an interview with someone from the north of England or Scotland, and we'll look at each other and admit neither of us has any idea what the interviewee said. And Richard is English. Other English people regularly admit that they don't always understand what people from other regions are saying. This doesn't happen very much in the US, unless you get someone from a real backwater ...

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At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've been across the pond a few times and have had little trouble dealing with the words or accents - with the sole exception of a Glaswegian guy at a auto-rental counter at Endinburg airport. I beleive I made him say everything three times - and I'm still conviced I didn't get half of it.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger najamonline4u said...

translation in uk is very difficult but thanks for telling some differences in UK and US English. they will be very helpful for me


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